LIVE UPDATE: Suicide bombers reportedly struck a checkpoint in Grozny, Chechnya, with one terrorist blowing himself up and a second shot dead by police. Four law-enforcers were wounded.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
Recent Analysis and Translations:
– Does it Matter if the Russian Opposition Stays United?
– Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Has Invented A Version Of History To Meet His Needs
– Getting The News From Chechnya â The Crackdown On Free Press You May Have Missed
– Aurangzeb, Putin, Realism and a Lesson from History
As we reported, the findings point to at least 4 officials in office in the Russian government, and dovetail with some of the exposes made by the Russian opposition in the past.
The independent Russian news site Slon.ru writes of some of the findings of Russian companies in the newly-released dbase related to Putin’s entourage.
The dbase contains information on several companies registered to cellist Sergei Roldugin, Putin’s close friend since his days as a law student in St. Petersburg. Raytar Ltd. (a company registered in the British Virgin Islands was not previously known.
Putin claimed that his friend was really involved in business but only achieved modest profits that he spent on musical instruments for his orchestra. The Kremlin said all of Roldugin’s offshore accounts were legal and called on journalists to respect Rodulgin’s privacy, said Slon.
Later, there were media reports that Roldulgin’s company International Media Overseas S.A had obtained funds from the sale of Rosneft shares which had been discovered by Sergei Magnitsky, the Hermitage Capital lawyer who blew the whistle on official fraud and then was himself charged, and died after beatings and torture in prison.
Another set of companies that surfaced are Kenrick Overseas Ltd., Culloden Properties Ltd., and Highland Ventures Group Ltd. all belonging to the Rotenberg brothers, who were Putin’s old sparring partners in a judo club in St. Petersburg.
There’s also the Breckenridge Global Management, Ltd. registered to the name of Arkady Rotenberg. Beechwood Associates and Causeway Consulting, Ltd. Arkady’s son Igor Rotenberg also owns a company called Stormont Systems, Ltd.
Slon didn’t find any new information about Tatyana Navka, the figure skater and wife of presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov. Earlier, ICIJ had shown leaked documents that said Navka had registered an offshore company called Carina Global Assets Ltd. which was in the British Virgin Islands. Carina is not showing in the current dbase. Peskov declared his and his wife’s properties after the Panama publication and refuted media claims and said it called into question all the information ICIJ has published.
Another company registered to Maksim Liksutov, head of Moscow’s Department of Transportation is Sermolent Equities, Inc. The juridiction is not indicated. The Transportatoin Department has stated that the findings of the Panama Papers “did not correspond to reality” and said that Liksutov was “not the beneficiary of three offshore companies”. According to his official financial declaration, he earned 65.9 million rubles last year ($990,986)
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The two men reportedly approached the checkpoint on the outskirts of the Alkhan-Kala neighborhood of the Grozny District with explosives and grenades. Dzhanaraliyev committed the suicide bombing, wounding six policemen from Bashkiriya who were manning the checkpoint. Inalov hurled himself at a policeman in an attempt to grab his weapon and was shot dead.
Caucasus.LiveUAMap. com has published a video said to be taken from the surveillance camera at the checkpoint
The start of the Victory Day parade was moved from 11:00 am to 11:30 am as a result of the incident. The entire center of Grozny was blocked by forces, not only at the cross-roads but all courtyards and lanes adjacent to Putin and Kadyrov Streets where the parade was passing.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has not yet mentioned the incident on his Instagram account, although he has several posts in recent hours, including a description of the May 9 parade in Grozny and his participation in the “Immortal Regiment” action to commemorate those who died fighting World War II. He mentioned in general terms those who gave their lives more recently fighting terrorists.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Today is the 71st anniversary of Victory Day over the Nazis in World War II, a celebration that President Vladimir Putin has made a centerpiece of his ideology and propaganda of a resurgent Russia.
The military parade is already under way on Red Square. City authorities seeded the clouds to ensure there would be no rain. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu rolled into Red Square standing up in a sedan; he made the sign of the cross as he entered the square. He then proceeded to inspect the troops and congratulate them with the holiday, and they cried “Hurrah!”
The day has not proceeded without controversies and as we reported has been marred by a terrorist attack in Chechnya where a suicide bomber blew himself at a checkpoint outside the city, a second bomber was killed by police and 6 policemen were wounded. Akhmed Kadyrov, father of the current leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was assassinated on May 9th, 2004 and so the republic is on heightened alert.
Lithuania did not attend the ceremony today, Baltic Times reported. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius has confirmed that no diplomatic representative from Lithuania would be present:
“I can say that our representatives will definitely not take part in military parades held by the Russian Federation. At a time when Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine is ongoing, we don’t think that participation in military parades is the appropriate way to show respect, even if it is to war veterans.”
Putin thanked President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan for spending the holiday in Moscow.
Putin’s speech seemed short and even subdued as he chose to highlight simple themes of the Russian people’s sacrifices during the war, such as evacuating and reassembling 1,500 factories, and the state’s care in compensating them later for their injuries and losses. “Such solidarity and loyalty to the Motherland is our strength, our certainty and our dignity,” he said. He said May 9 was was both “a state and a very personal family holiday.”
Putin nevertheless hewed to the sentiment of past years that the West does not sufficiently appreciate Russia’s sacrifices:
“Our fathers and grandfathers overcome a powerful, ruthless enemy before whom many countries wilted and retreated. And it was precisely the Soviet people who brought freedom to other peoples. It was in fact from our soldier that the Nazis and their accomplices received full vengeance for the millions of victims, for all the fanaticism and outrages on our soil.”
Western commentators have noted the presence of Buks, an anti-aircraft missile system, in the parade, spotted even during rehearsals. There was some reports that precisely the type of Buk used in the shooting down of MH17 in 2014 was being paraded around, but experts said that a different model was used — one that the Russians claim the Ukrainians themselves had in their arsenals and used to shoot down the Boeing themselves.
But as our reporting on MH17 has shown regarding Russia’s role in shooting down the Malaysian airliner, and as Bellingcat has recently established with extensive detail, the Buk used to shoot down MH17 was from the Russian Army.
A video uploaded to YouTube of a howitzer running amok during a rehearsal in Novosibirsk has sparked a lot of commentary on social media.
Gazeta.ru made an extensive interview with three Tomsk journalists, Sergei Kolotovkin, Sergei Lapenkov and Igor Dmitriyev, who in 2012 had originally conceived of the idea of the “Immortal Regiment.” This popular grass-roots effort was originally designed to have ordinary people remember their relatives who were killed in World War II or survived as veterans and to march holding their portraits, as a contrast to the increasing exploitation of the patriotic and military holiday by the government for propagandistic purposes.
The idea was coopted, however, and by last year, Putin was transforming the holiday into a state occasion, with himself at the head of the column bearing a portrait of his father, who was in the NKVD in Estonia during the war and was later wounded defending Leningrad.
The Tomsk journalists believe the holiday has become hopelessly bureaucratized, as school-children are handed out posters to carry of people who aren’t even their own relatives, and officials will not take their phone calls. While the event takes different forms in different cities, the initial impulse has been trampled, they say.
Even so, many Russians are taking to social media to personally express their recollections of their relatives who fought and suffered in the “Great Fatherland War” as it is known in Russian, in which some 22 million gave their lives to defeat Nazism.
Kseniya Sobchak, a journalist and socialite, daughter of St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak who died in 2000, recalled her grandparents today, for example. Her grandmother, Valentina Vladimirovna Khlebosol was taken prisoner by the Nazis at the age of 16, then liberated by Soviet troops. She worked as a translator for the Soviet staff in a Soviet-occupied German city where her future husband, Boris Moyiseyevich Narusov was already the commandante. He fought in the war and was wounded and returned home to Bryansk where he and his wife raised two daughters, one of whom was Kseniya’s mother.
Already generations are growing up whose grandparents or other relatives who fought in the war have died and the direct memory is no longer passed on. Russians express a concern that May 9th has become a long holiday merged with May 1st, the former Soviet Labor Day, merely an excuse for a long vacation from work and a party.
Russians have passed around Facebook an invitation to one such party: “Victory Night: The Mother Land Calls You to Dance”
“Everyone coming with St. George ribbons get a free drink at the bar. Minute of free alchohol every hour!!!” says the invitation, referencing the orange-and-black ribbons that have been the hallmark of nationalists in Russia as well as supporters of “Novorossiya” in southeastern Ukraine.
Yevgeny Feldman, a photojournalist for Novaya Gazeta, has a photo essay about a nearly-abandoned and impoverished village in the provinces where school-children still keep up a World War II monument and the trenches dug in that era can still be found.
Умирающая деревня. Перед Днем победы
"Колхоз развалился, все и уехали" – рассказывает мне через окно местная жительница. В Пустошке Селижаровского района Тверской области домов 70, но жителей осталось всего в трех – и еще в пару иногда приезжают дачники. Тут же р
Gazeta.ru now has some updates on the story of the terrorist attack today, May 9th, as Russia is celebrating the 71st anniversary of Victory Day.
According to TASS, two terrorists attacked a checkpoint in Grozny; one blew himself up and the other was shot dead by police. Six policemen were said to be wounded in the attack.
The Interior Ministry in Chechnya denied previous reports that a policeman had been killed.
Earlier officials said the attack was at 6:30 and that a police officer assigned from Bashkiriya was killed; this was later changed to a report that he was wounded. Three of the police are said to be in serious condition.
A spokesman said (translation by The Interpreter):
Today at Checkpoint No. 138 on the outskirts of Grozny, police officers prevented passage into the city of two armed persons who had grenades and explosive devices on their persons.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
As Russia began celebrating the 71st anniversary of Victory Day today, Interfax reported that two terrorists attacked a checkpoint in Grozny. One was a suicide bomber who blew himself up, and the second was killed by police. At least 4 policemen were said to suffer shrapnel wounds.
Interfax said they did not have confirmation of the information.
Akhmed Kadyrov, the chief mufti of Chechnya and the father of the current leader Ramzan Kadyrov was assassinated 12 years ago today on May 9, 2004 at a Victory Day parade.
Kadyrov himself has not yet commented on the attack on his Instagram account where he usually posts; his last post was 10 hours ago about a meeting with veterans in connection with the holidays.
Magomed Daudov, Kadyrov’s close comrade-at-arms from the resistance days and now the speaker of parliament had a lengthy post an hour ago regarding the World War II memorial and veterans of Chechnya as well as an homage to Akhmed Kadyrov. He did not mention the attack.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick